Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In ancient Greek myths there are creatures called Sirens- beautiful mermaids whose singing lures sailors onto the rocks and drowns all the sailors aboard. No-one before has ever asked why they do this. What is a siren's motivation for luring people on ships to their deaths? Even today, fishing boats mysteriously disappear, or ships crash into rocks despite experienced captains on board. What happened to them? 'Lost Voices' begins to answer this with a story about a group of young girls who have been wronged or harmed in one way or another by mankind, left for dead and transformed into mermaids. Believing that all people are essentially bad and deserve to die they use their powerful and hypnotising voices to sing the ships onto the rocks, or sing people into the water where they drown.
I was attracted to this book because it looked like an interesting twist to the mermaid genre and an angle that I had never really considered before. I've read a few mermaid stories for the YA market lately and have really enjoyed them- but this was just ok.
Once the girls were mermaids and had sunk a couple of ships I did think "where is this story going". I was only half-way through and felt that there couldn't be much more to tell, surely? But the author keeps telling the background stories of other girls, and creates a conflict and power struggle between the tribe of mermaids. It became more of a story about how a group of young girls can become quite bitchy, and manipulative, and form into cliques. The writing was quite haunting and mystical and sometimes felt like being in a dream. You can almost feel the cold salty greyness of the sea, but it also had that disjointed feel that dreams have, slipping about all over the place, and a bit disconnected at times. The ending was very abrupt and felt like it had no resolution, and was sorely missing- something.
Luce occupies her time by practicing her singing, and in training her voice she discovers new powers of controlling the sea and ways to manipulate the human's emotions, to make it easier for them. She does want to use her voice to help people if she can- even if all that means she can do is to make people feel at peace when they die, or make it less traumatic. I love the description of the power of the singing voices, the way it is described as a caress or like tendrils creeping into people's minds and affecting the way they make people think and feel. Some of the girls' voices are cruel, and some, like Luce's are more tender. The singing can be shaped and moulded and controlled.
They were all caught in the exaltation of their own voices, mad with the joy of power. She felt a rush of compassion for all the girls singing now: after all, they'd spent their human lives being so utterly helpless; how could they fail to be delighted by their ability to dominate anyone who heard them?
After sinking the ships Luce begins to question the life she has fallen into, and wants to do what feels right to her- even if that means trying to protect some of the humans.
"I just..." Luce didn't know how to say it. "I feel like maybe we could figure out another way? I know they do all kinds of terrible things..." But so do we, Luce thought. A bizarre, unwelcome idea occurred to her: that mermaids were really just as human, just as brutal and destructive as the humans themselves.
Overall, I loved the idea behind the plotline, but just felt that it didn't really promise anything or lead anywhere. I'm not really sure how I feel at the end of this book- whether I'm saddened by all the events that have happened or elated at the prospect of hope. There is no real resolution to any of the problems in the girls' lives, and still so many unanswered questions.
ARC thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers and netgalley.com
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